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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

I3o                            THE GAY GENIUS

merit" or laying up treasure in heaven for having saved living creatures,
according to Buddhist teachings. It was quite possible that one and the
same fish could save three lives from Hell, if he were caught three
times and loosed three times.

Su Tungpo participated fully in the life on the lake. There were two
kinds of parties, families enjoying themselves and others with sing-song^
women. The lake was a place where the wives looked at the sing-song
women with fear, and the sing-song women looked at the wives with
envy. The sing-song women wished from the bottom of their hearts
that they could be "liberated" and have homes of their own with grow-
ing children around them, like those wives. Su Tungpo sometimes
went with his wife and children, and sometimes with his drinking
official friends. He was versatile. He had at his command a pen which
could produce such skilful, ornate, and technically excellent lines that
they compelled admiration from fellow scholars, and he could write
simple effortless lines that stuck in one's memory. , With his family,
he could sing:

"The sound of chopping fish comes from the bow,
And the fragrance of cooking rice issues from the stern."

With his fellow officials he wrote lines that delighted them in their
gaiety:

"The pleasure boats with oars of Wu have been painted,
The dancing dress of new Yueh gauze is first being tried."

As soon as they arrived at the lake shore, the boatmen crowded around
them and each asked them to take his boat. They would choose a
small one, seating four or five people, or sometimes when there was a
bigger party, one large enough to set a dinner-table in, and have food
prepared by the boatwoman, who was usually an expert cook. These
houseboats were elaborately carved and h^d gargoyles at the bows; On
the lake there were other boats catering to the holiday-makers. Some
boatmen sold chestnuts, melon seeds, stuffed lotus roots, sweetmeats,
roast chicken, and fresh sea-food. Other boatwomen specialised k&
serving tea. Some boats carried entertainers who customarily drew tra
to the tourists* boats and entertained them with songs, light acrobatics,
and provided slings and other shooting games.

Around them all lay the clear blue waf ers*of the lake with a circum-
ference of about ten miles, and in the distance beyond, clouds nestled
against the mountain-tops, half concealing and half revealing them.
The donds gave variety to the mountains by lending them a changing
dk&qpCy and the mountains housed the clouds by providing them a home